'Marshall Plan' aims to push Michigan to the front of technology education

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Gov. Rick Snyder already considers Michigan the leader in education reform, but he says he’s got a plan to catapult his state even further ahead of the rest.

The “Marshall Plan for Talent,” the name of Snyder’s $100 million, five-year statewide investment into technology education, is Michigan’s next step in education reform. Snyder says the plan, which was formally announced at the end of February but has been in the works for months, is essentially a redesign in “the ways we invest, develop and attract talent in our state,” according to a statement.

“We’ve built up a lot of good programs that fill up gaps and needs and things like that, but we didn’t have an overall catalyst that brought it all together,” the Republican governor told EdScoop in an interview on Tuesday. “That’s what the Marshall Plan really does, is to say, ‘This isn’t just about a set of programs to help solve the problem — this is, philosophically, a major movement to recognize the world’s changing, and we have the opportunity to lead the world.’”

Experts say Michigan will need to fill 800,000 jobs in IT, manufacturing, health care, business and trade professions by 2024. Snyder’s plan calls for investment in competency-based education and apprenticeship programs, as well as a heavy focus on teacher and professional development to supply educators with the necessary skills to teach computer science and IT-based courses.

First reported by Crain’s, the plan calls for $15 million for a Michigan IT and Computer Science Promise Scholarship that will provide $750 a year for two years to IT and computer science students. It also would allocate $10 million each for K-12 IT and computer science teacher training and for the creation of IT job apprenticeship programs targeting underserved populations and individuals. Colleges and universities would collectively receive $15 million in curriculum development grants and, along with K-12 schools, $15 million to offset capital expenditures necessary to offer more IT and computer science courses.

Along with establishing a new curricular focus, Snyder sees the Marshall Plan as a way to move contemporary pedagogical methods forward. In a recent op-ed, the governor said America’s educational system is still “based in the 1800’s” and does not provide adequate encouragement for young people to go into careers that interest them.

He sees the Marshall Plan for Talent addressing these issues by ridding students from the constant “collection of start/finish experiences” of traditional K-20 education and moving toward instituting competency-based learning programs and a “prenatal through lifelong learning” path.

“Anyone graduating today will most likely go through at least two major retrainings during the course of their career, and that’s significant,” Snyder told EdScoop. “Right now, our system is woefully inadequate as a nation to deal with that.”

Snyder, whose term ends in 2018 and is not eligible for re-election due to term limits, says he wants to facilitate the lifelong learning culture through partnerships with industry, K-12 and higher education. He said that “We’re really going to present it to people as, ‘You really need to apply as a consortium. You need to go apply with a K-12, a community college, a university and employers, all coming together.'”

Snyder sees this partnership style as a way to connect pathways for students throughout their lives — avoiding the silos of separate schools and employers that have never collaborated in the past.

“I’ll use software development as a case,” he said. “There’s some great programs out there. Why should we tell our [students] that they have to wait until community college to take that class? That’s us putting an artificial constraint on someone. I don’t care if you’re 12 or you’re 40. If you can achieve that competency, and you have the ability, let them go.”

More information will be available on the rollout of the Marshall Plan in the next 30 to 60 days, the governor’s office told EdScoop.

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